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After briefly covering Bill Freudenburg’s early years, this essay reviews his major scholarly contributions and professional accomplishments while a faculty member at…
After briefly covering Bill Freudenburg’s early years, this essay reviews his major scholarly contributions and professional accomplishments while a faculty member at Washington State University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California-Santa Barbara. Bill’s unique strengths – especially his keen sociological imagination – and crucial conceptual, theoretical and empirical contributions are highlighted, as well as his commitment to providing valuable mentoring for students and colleagues. The enduring importance of his work is ensured by the continuing application and extension of his ideas by other scholars.
Despite their salience as tools for understanding society–environment relationships, coupled natural and human (CNH) systems approaches have consistently failed to offer…
Despite their salience as tools for understanding society–environment relationships, coupled natural and human (CNH) systems approaches have consistently failed to offer realistic pictures of the political processes that shape efforts to create sustainable societies. Engagement with William R. Freudenburg’s work on political inequalities in the regulation of natural resources and its incorporation into CNH work would address this source of weakness. Over the course of two decades, Freudenburg introduced a set of concepts that describe the political mechanisms through which politically powerful polluters prevent environmental policy reforms. Freudenburg and Gramling’s last book, about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, integrates Freudenburg’s political concepts into a CNH analysis and produces an explanation for the oil spill that is exceptional in its empirically accurate treatment of the role of political inequalities in shaping environmental outcomes. Future progress in CNH systems analyses hinges to a great degree on its ability to portray power dynamics in realistic ways. The Freudenburg–Gramling book on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill shows us how to do so. It represents an intellectual legacy which Bill Freudenburg would have been proud of.
William R. Freudenburg’s work contributes to an understanding of how local and external factors influence environmental quality through land-use planning and growth…
William R. Freudenburg’s work contributes to an understanding of how local and external factors influence environmental quality through land-use planning and growth management. A recent Adirondack planning study (Ruzow Holland, 2010) explores and analyzes, through the methodological lens of Participatory Action Research (PAR), how the town comprehensive planning process evolved within the community of Willsboro, New York (2010 Population 2025). Access to knowledge, technology, and deliberative decision making reduces the power of the “Privileged,” including external influences, to control the rate and type of local land development. The analysis illustrates the conversion point(s) of Freudenburg’s sociology of knowledge, power, and natural resources with the lessons learned from a place-based PAR, land-use planning project.
In this chapter, I suggest three conceptual tools developed by William R. Freudenburg and colleagues that characterize the failure of institutions to carry out their…
In this chapter, I suggest three conceptual tools developed by William R. Freudenburg and colleagues that characterize the failure of institutions to carry out their duties – recreancy, atrophy of vigilance, and bureaucratic slippage – are of use beyond environmental sociology in the framing of the September 11, 2001 disaster. Using testimony and findings from primary materials such as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Joint Inquiry hearings and report (2002, 2004a, 2004b) and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2004) alongside insider accounts, I discuss how Freudenburg’s tools have the potential to theorize institutional failures that occur in national security decision making. I also suggest these tools may be of particular interest to the U.S. intelligence community in its own investigation of various types of risk and failures.
What constitutes a social problem? How do policy-making institutions carry out their responsibilities to solve problems that lead to risky consequences? This issue has…
What constitutes a social problem? How do policy-making institutions carry out their responsibilities to solve problems that lead to risky consequences? This issue has drawn relatively little attention among researchers in the social sciences, partly because it lies at the interface of social problems and public policy cutting across disciplinary boundaries. This chapter attempts to focus on the issue where social problems and public policy come together with a greater attention to the institutions that are responsible for managing risky outcomes. It summarizes major contributions made by W. R. Freudenburg. Particularly it focuses on the ways that solutions to social problems are not successfully carried out by policy-making institutions. The chapter explains reasons for institutional failures and discusses some future challenges for a fuller understanding of institutional failures.
Recreancy is a concept that received William R. Freudenburg’s studied attention. Freudenburg moved beyond its conventional meaning – shirking duty – to a larger realm of…
Recreancy is a concept that received William R. Freudenburg’s studied attention. Freudenburg moved beyond its conventional meaning – shirking duty – to a larger realm of irresponsibility by public actors who breach a societal trust they assume. This research focuses on the issue of “Peak Farmland,” a rendering of global carrying capacity that, we suggest, qualifies for what Freudenburg called “privileged discourse” and possibly recreancy. Scholars identified with dematerialized progress argue that finite farmland in the face of increasing population will improve human welfare and spare land for nature. This iconoclasm presents an arena for testing academic probity with respect to global food security. After an overview of past carrying capacity debates, we summarize the “Peak Farmland” position of the dematerialization school and suggest an important blind spot: the dematerialization of the global land base itself. Gathering the results of multiple studies on land loss, we offer evidence that the world’s warehouse of productive land is not just peaking but eroding on a grand scale. Ignoring this form of dematerialization while proclaiming nearly unlimited carrying capacity for Earth’s denizens strains the meaning of responsible scholarship.
This chapter examines similarities in government policies that have accelerated and privatized the extraction of offshore oil, coal, and oil sands on public lands in the…
This chapter examines similarities in government policies that have accelerated and privatized the extraction of offshore oil, coal, and oil sands on public lands in the United States and Canada, as well as the arguments used to justify those policies. Sociologist William Freudenburg argued that the diversion of public resources into private hands was made possible by a second diversion, the diversion of attention. Freudenburg, with Gramling, later applied this concept to U.S. offshore oil leases, noting that when it came to offshore oil, the myth of “energy independence” was often used to justify policies that were actually antithetical to the concept, promoting further dependence on fossil fuels. We extend the double diversion concept from offshore oil to U.S. coal and Alberta oil sands, noting the similarities in both the policy changes and the diversionary frameworks. The frameworks also divert attention from the increasing risks associated with energy extraction.
William R. Freudenburg conceived “the double diversion” as the simultaneous process of diverting environmental resources or rights shared by all to a small group of social…
William R. Freudenburg conceived “the double diversion” as the simultaneous process of diverting environmental resources or rights shared by all to a small group of social actors, which was made possible by a second diversion – the acceptance of the taken-for-granted assumption that environmental harms benefit the common good. In doing so, Freudenburg was among the first to note the importance of looking at not only the distribution of environmental harms but also environmental privileges. In this chapter, we extend the conceptualization of the double diversion to include an instance where rather than framing environmental harm as being a public good, environmental action is framed as benefiting the public writ large, while larger issues of environmental injustice are ignored. In particular, we look at the disproportionate distribution of the urban tree canopy in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the framing of the mitigation of the environmental threat of the Asian Longhorned Beetle as a problem for the commons. Through an analysis of media, we demonstrate that organizations and social actors who have tried to address the effects of this particular ecological threat have nonetheless ignored previous disproportionalities in the environment–society relationship.